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Not Your Usual Picoult
Picture Perfect - Jodi Picoult
Member Name: blonde_girl774
Picture Perfect - Jodi Picoult
Advantages: Good development of the story.
Disadvantages: Bland and rather dull really.
There are a couple of authors that I absolutely love and wait in anticipation of their new releases for months at a time. Jodi Picoult is one such author, I can't wait for her books to come out and eagerly pounce on a copy as soon as they come out. She's an American author who has had sixteen books published to date. Her books all share several common themes in that they focus on family, heartbreak and some often sort of court drama as well which is usually the result of a morally questionable crime. Her first novel was published back in 1992 and she shows no signs of stopping writing anytime soon, thank goodness!
Now when I came to write this review I actually discovered that she released Picture Perfect back in 1995 in America, however she has since had it re-published several times with it first being released in the UK back in 2007 and most recently in hardback in October 2009. I'm not really too sure why I've never come across it before or why she's had it released twice in the UK, judging from Amazon it wasn't officially released in 2007 as it was only stocked in their Market Place rather than on their official Amazon site. However I'm not going to dwell on that as I managed to get hold of it earlier in November and couldn't wait to start it.
As the book begins a young woman wakes up in a graveyard, she has no recollection of why she's there or who she is. Days later, after being taken in by a new officer in the LA police force, her husband comes to claim her at the police station. She recognises him instantly, not because he's her husband, but because he's Hollywood's leading film star Alex Rivers. Slowly she starts to remember particles of her old life and despite the fairy tale appearance it soon becomes clear that all was (and still is) not right in their marriage. Trying to piece together parts of the past she finally realises what she was doing in the graveyard... running away.
Cassie is the main character and the one who tells the majority of the story from her viewpoint. She's a caring and kind woman who is very passionate about her career. On the surface she certainly appears to have everything anyone could ever want but underneath it all she's slowly falling apart. Alex is her husband, Hollywood's leading man, and as she he seems arrogant and selfish at times although it's clear he had a very troubled childhood. The other character is that of Will, a new member of the police force who discovered Cassie in her moment of need, and who can't seem to forget her no matter how hard he tries.
I'm a massive Jodi Picoult fan and I've fallen in love with the majority of her novels, in fact some of them have kept me up almost all night. There have been one or two I've not been overly keen on but the majority of them have had me hooked from the very first page and have often left me with recurring thoughts even after I'd finished them. She's a talented writer in that she writes a great story that has the reader addicted instantly but she also incorporates controversial and touching themes in much of her writing as well as underlying issues and messages that you perhaps may not realise when you're first reading her books.
The only book I can really remember not enjoying was her earliest, Songs of the Humpback Whale. I just found it painfully bland and ordinary, not what I was used to reading at all. Her second novel was written in 1993 and is entitled Harvesting the Heart, this is the only one I've still got to read and I intend to do it very soon. Sadly Picture Perfect produced a very similar response from me as her first novel did. This was the third book she wrote and it seems she was still trying to identify her style and she hadn't quite reached the addictive and compelling stories that she writes today. I didn't find it nearly as good as her recent work.
The plot had all the makings of a typical Jodi Picoult plot, there was ambiguity and mystery that compelled me to read on. It appeared on the surface that Cassie had a fairytale lifestyle with the silver screen star but it soon became apparent that all that glitters is not gold. It was revealed quite early on in the book that there were problems within the marriage, quite major problems at that. So far I was still hooked with discovering these problems and what was going to happen, yes the pace was a little slow but I was willing to persevere in the hope that it picked up. However it didn't really, it never got going and the spark never got lit.
The book is split into three different parts, the present day where we meet Cassie and discover her memory loss, then we revert back to 1993 which was when they met and we learn of how the couple met and fell in love before finally reverting back to the present day again. This flash back in time initially seemed to be good, but it went on for a third of the novel and quite frankly I didn't want to know about their first date, their second date, their third date, etc. I think this middle section could have been kept much shorter as, quite frankly, it was boring to read and pretty much irrelevant to what had happened at the start of the novel.
The characters are quite unlikeable really, I pitied Cassie and initially found her endearing but it soon became apparent to me that she was quite weak to be honest and this just irritated me more than anything. Alex came across as arrogant, selfish and everything I despise in a man really which obviously meant I wasn't going to particularly empathise with him in any way. Will is the other main character and he's quite minor in comparison to the other two, he's clearly a caring and nice young man but his actions just seemed ridiculous and I couldn't understand why he went out of his way to help a complete stranger so much to be honest.
I think the thing I was most disappointed with is that this novel didn't engage me in any way, I didn't feel compelled to read on an extra couple of pages and found it quite easy to put the book down at night. Normally with Picoults books I'm in such a rush to read them that I finish them in about three or four days in total. However with this one it sat next to my bed for over two weeks, I just didn't feel any sense of urgency to reach the end. There's a complete lack of substance, nothing of any meaning or value really happens here at all and I did miss the court room drama factor that seems to work so well in her more recent works.
In the majority of her other books there seem to be some provoking themes that develop throughout and leave the reader with a lasting thought. Here it's clear there were one or two themes but none of them were really developed enough to reach the surface. All of the characters have had difficult pasts in different senses and throughout there seems to be a minor debate of nature versus nurture. However this idea is never fully developed, it could have worked really well I feel, but instead Picoult left it lingering beneath the surface and never made a point of it. In other novels these themes have been interwoven into the text.
Probably the most valuable moment in the story came from Cassie's memories of her dead friend Connor. In her memory she recounts a conversation they had which really had the opportunity for Picoult to hook the reader in completely but sadly she never persevered with it.
"There's a problem with wounded birds, Cassie," Conner said. "Either they fly away from you one day, or else they never get better. They stay hurt no matter what you do."
This is quite a bland story overall, the author tries to augment it slightly with some Native American tales now and then that ultimately doesn't quite blend in. Rather than adding character to the story it just seems misplaced and borders on being ridiculous. All of the characters are one dimensional and by the end I cared very little about what happened to them, there was no reason to bond or empathise with any of them. In conclusion I'd probably say it's one of her worst pieces of fiction, it would be hard to determine if it was this one or Songs of the Humpback Whale that was more bland, dull and quite frankly, incredibly poor.
Thanks for reading.
Summary: One of the first books written by Jodi Picoult yet only released in the UK in 2009.